I actually worked at the Luhrs Building on Central and Jefferson several years ago. During the lowest point of my last bout with unemployment, I spent a couple of weeks at ten dollars an hour cleaning out the office of a guy who worked behind the main building in the Annex. In addition to my hourly rate, I also got a ladder and a carpenter's level in a swell case, as well as a handful of empty jewel cases. I also got a tour of a piece of Phoenix history that up until then, I'd never really explored.
Erected the 1920s, the Luhrs Office Buidling and Tower were Phoenix's very first skyscrapers. The two-story 1914 Luhrs Central Building that separates them served as Phoenix's first post office. The top four floors of the office building originally housed something called "The Arizona Club," a hale institution that continues to this day under different haunts. But by the time I came to work there, both buildings and their annex offered nothing but seedy office space. But the charm that remained was undeniable. From the funky parking lot ramp-ways and the brass mail schutes to the marble walls in the lobby and the barber shop by the elevators, the place threw off some serious ambiance. I was badly smitten.
Since everything else downtown is being demolished, gutted or re-purposed, I knew it was only a matter of time for the Luhrs collection. Recently, I was summoned to the area for jury duty. I spent a relaxing afternoon away from work, dozing, listening to music, and stumbling from courtroom to courtroom before I was finally released. That evening, as I walked from the courthouse back to my car, I noticed that the windows on the Luhrs Office Building were all boarded up.
The renovation of the two main historic buildings is being carried out by new owners with the approval of the Office of Historic Preservation. However, it sacrifices the connecting arcade, the southern annex and the Luhrs Central Building, as well as the fifties-era parking structure in the back. According to one city official, plans include "a full-service, AAA, well-branded hotel; some historic office buildings; a contemporary high-rise building in the center; and then another building over where the parking garage is."
Given the direction the economy's moving -- with condo developers backing out of projects up and down the central corridor to the tune of over a thousand units at last count -- who knows, we may have the boards in place of the historic window glass for many months to come. But I like the boarded-up aesthetic, so I grabbed my camera and my walking around lens and went on a commando mission. Unfortunately, my low light stealth shots from inside the gutted structure didn't come out so good, but I got decent coverage of the outside: